The West Midlands Interchange (WMI), a new Strategic Rail Freight Interchange (SRFI) in South Staffordshire, is set to become a reality with the promoter Four Ashes Limited (FAL) planning the next stage in its development after it was granted a Development Consent Order (DCO) by the Secretary of State for Transport on 4 May 2020. The DCO decision is now clear of the judicial review period.
The Four Ashes site will boost economic growth through its location in the M54 Wolverhampton – Staffordshire High Growth Zone. It supports both the Government’s Modern Industrial Strategy and the ambitions of the ‘Midlands Engine’, which together aim to help deliver a high-skilled, competitive economy that benefits people in the West Midlands and throughout the UK.
As well as helping to attract more global business and investment, the scheme will create 8,550 direct jobs. It is expected to generate £427m of local economic activity each year and, through the supply chain, create £912m per annum of economic activity nationally.
A new SRFI is something that has been identified as essential for the future prosperity of South Staffordshire, the Black Country and West Midlands region since 2004, according to the West Midlands Regional Logistics Study. The West Midlands’ strong manufacturing and logistics industrial base is growing, and there is a shortage of suitable quality development land for large scale rail-served logistics warehousing. WMI will deliver fast, reliable transport links to help the region’s businesses compete in national and international markets.
The proposed scheme has been designed to increase the efficiency of freight distribution, taking freight traffic off motorways and trunk roads and onto the rail network. This will also reduce CO2 emissions emitted by freight transport; rail freight produces up to 70% less CO2 and up to 15 times lower noxious emissions than road freight tonne for tonne.
The site is uniquely located for an SRFI in this part of the West Midlands, with the ability to create a new strategic logistics hub in the same way as nearby Hams Hall and Birch Coppice have done in the past. It has the ability to deliver up to 7.8 m sq ft of warehousing, is adjacent to Junction 12 of the M6 and lies directly on the West Coast Main Line. Warehouse footprints in excess of 1.5m sq ft will be possible and building heights of between and 20m and 30m have been approved in the planning consent.
The site will have direct connections to the West Coast Mainline, one of the strategic rail freight routes in the UK that can accommodate the transfer of larger 9’6” freight containers between road and rail.
FAL is currently putting plans in place to approach funders and development teams in order to market the site and start construction as soon as possible. Eastdil Secured has been retained as advisor to FAL on marketing the site.